25 Tips for Moms of Boys

Cranford‘s delightfully absurd Miss Pole (an unmarried elderly woman who had hardly ever talked to a man) said,

“My father was a man. I think I understand the sex.”

Well, as a mom of 7 boys, 15 years in, I think I actually *do* understand more about raising boys (at least *little* boys) than the average Joe.



5 big boys




So, in a spirit of helping out my fellow sisters around the world, let me offer the following observations:

#1- Keep a lot of bandaids on hand.

#2- If at all possible, have a spot in your yard where digging is permitted.

#3- Keep them busy with useful tasks.

Some ideas: Lightbulb-changing; bathroom trash to the main trash; doorknob screw-tightening; using baby wipes to wipe stains off the floor under the dining table; WD-40 on rusty bike chains.

#4- Make them look you in the eye when you talk to them.

This is ESPECIALLY true when correcting them, but it’s a good principle in general. Getting 2 & 3 year old boys to look you in the eye (and not look away), before you correct and discipline them, is more than half the battle.

#5- Your boys want to feel competent, and to earn your respect.

Look for ways to help them grow in depth of confidence in skills, and let them know when you see them working hard and doing something well.

6- Don’t let them get away with not doing any inside housework.

Maybe I’m saying this because I’m a mom of only 1 girl, and we would DIIIIIIIIIIE under a pile of laundry and dishes if my sons never did these chores. But I hope I would say this no matter the composition of our family: don’t put all the housework on the shoulders of yourself and your daughter(s). Later, even if your delightful-little-genius-man of a son is a CEO of a major corporation and never again does his own laundry or dishes, it will be really good for him TO HAVE DONE laundry or dishes, regularly, and appreciate the time and work involved in these activities that support every person’s daily life.

#7- Wrestling, tickling, and snuggling on the floor is a great wintertime energy-user-upper.

#8- When they complain about work, do not ever let them off the hook.

Whatever your solution (talking them through it, connecting their work to the benefits of the family, or — as we do– adding more work to their plate when they complain), do not let them off the hook. Lamentations 3:27 says “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” Let it be a major aim of your parenting, that you will teach this little man to be a diligent worker, and bear the load of hard work, while he is young.

#9- Let not thine heart hold out hope for jeans without holes in the knees.

#10- Not being able to sit still now doesn’t mean he never will. It means he’s a boy.

Even great men like Thomas Jefferson wrote (or dictated!) great documents like the Declaration of Independence while pacing back and forth.

#11- That said, teach him how to sit still sometimes.

From 3 years old onward, our sons sit through a hour-long church service, twice-each-Sunday. Yes sometimes they wiggle, and yes, the 3 year old definitely needs to be trained to do it. But it’s worth it to (sometimes… not all day, er’day) teach them to sit still. Self-control is a major battle in the life of a young man. It’s the one thing the Bible specifically tells us to”urge” young men to be.

#12- Silly noises can help them warm up to things like face-wiping after meals, or nose-wiping when sick.

#13- Learn how to give basic boy haircuts.

You’ll save yourself a heap of money over the long haul. Especially if you have 7 of them. :)

#14- Teach him to speak up; never allow him to mumble.

Of course, this assumes that he’s speaking clearly at other times. If your child is capable of loudly asking for the ice cream flavor he wants, or screaming for the blue block, he can apologize– or say “hello” to the older woman at church who greets him, or say any number of things which he doesn’t on his own wish to say– loud and clear.

#15- Do not ever talk poorly about his father.

If you have something negative to say, say it to the Lord or say it directly to your husband. Your son has a deep need to respect and learn from his dad. It will already be hard enough, given the fact that every human father is human. Don’t make it harder.

#16- Take opportunities to familiarize him with the things our culture sees as “man things.”

(And even though our culture loves to lecture about gender and sex, blah blah blah, there are still clearly things that our culture expects women to know, and expects men to know. This hasn’t changed.)

The more things you can expose him to concepts and tasks that average men in his culture like to know about, the more equipped he will be to take on the tasks of manhood in the time and place where he is planted.

Some ideas for skills to acquire: start a fire– get a grill going, fill a car up with gas, roofing, gun safety basics, lawn mowing & weed eating, home maintenance like changing the air filter, check the oil and other gauges on a car, basics about pocket knives, hail a taxi, read a topographical map, put out baits for home pest control, clean a toilet, speak to a manager about a problem in a polite but firm way, catch a football, climb a ladder & walk safely on a roof, replace a computer battery, etc. These are just ideas, but project him forward as a man, and consider, what situations might he be in, as a man, and want to know at least a basic familiarity with a topic so that he doesn’t look or feel like a doofus. You can help him then, by familiarizing him with those things now every time there’s an opportunity.

#17- It’s perfectly normal for your son to need painful discipline to be motivated to change.

This is very, very common. It may be a much different “feel” than the way discipline felt with your daughter(s). This does not mean abuse them. (In fact, if you’re close to the edge of your self-control, or wondering if you are abusive, DO NOT SPANK.) If you spank, test your spankings on your own leg. Your spankings really should hurt, sting, smart… make you feel it. It should be painful enough to truly act as a deterrent against his future foolishness.

This is the basic principle of Hebrews 12 discipline– being consistently trained by pain, by invested and loving parents, yields peace and leads to righteousness. The vast majority of situations where someone says, “he doesn’t respond to spankings”, can be solved by two things: painful-enough discipline, and consistency. (Check out the recent Mom On Purpose podcast about that, HERE!)

#18- If you happen to have an extra-wiggly boy toddler around the same time that you have a newborn, this gate/playyard might just change your life.

#19- The older they get, the more they need to take on an independent responsibility for their own work, and receive discipline from their father (not you, Mama!).

This will be difficult if you (mom) have been overseeing everything. It may take purposefulness on your part, but it’s worth it– for him and for you. For us this last year, that has looked like my husband taking over most of the responsibility for overseeing the schoolwork of our 14 year old. Aside from small daily rebukes/correction, my husband does most of the discipline and corrective talks with our sons once they’re about 10/11 and up.

#20- It’s OK if it takes a while for him to learn to read.

The average age (so far) for our boys to learn to read is 7. Then they go on to read things like Lord of the Rings, Wayside School, Pilgrim’s Progress, Roald Dahl, Heaven for Kids, and books about economics and architecture.

They really will be OK if they don’t read “early;” many boys don’t. This does not necessarily mean he has a learning disability. It might just mean he’s a boy, developing physically and in other areas first, before he moves to that particular skill.

#21- Emotional self-control CAN be learned.

Crying doesn’t make him a sissy, but it will be a deterrent in his life if you don’t teach him how to control himself.

If your son has trouble controlling his emotions, give him physical ways he can work to master his responses. Some that work for our boys are: folding hands, washing the face off with cold water, doing a physically-demanding chore, standing with their feet and hands backed against a wall, and going for a run around the block.

#22- Play that includes things with wheels, explosions, funny sounds, or anything you can build or connect, always beats play that does not include these things.

#23- You are the primary teacher for how he should treat women.

Even if/when you are stronger than him, do not let him hit or be rough toward you. Teach him to be gentle and servant-hearted toward you. This is one way you can bless his future wife.

#24- Between the ages of 4-12, your son will probably do some number of things that make absolutely no sense to you.

Asking “why” (as in, on Sunday morning before church, asking: “why did you stash two plastic disposable forks in the waistband of your suit pants?”) will yield no reasonable answer. At this point, instead of beating your head against a wall and losing your mind, I’ve found it best to stop my quest for an answer and just accept that sometimes they do things that make no sense.

#25- Rubbing or scratching their backs while you talk might just help them to open up their heart and soul to you.





What would you add? What’s your TOP tip for moms of boys? 

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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21 Responses

  1. Holly says:

    Thanks for this post! I loved it! With having 4 girls and only 2 boys and being a woman myself, I feel like I could always use more advice in parenting the boys. ? And thank you for #17, this has been something I have wondered for awhile now. In our home, the girls receive discipline so much different than the boys, and I wondered if it was just me or a real thing. ?

  2. Shannon says:

    I’m a mom of 4 Boys & these are great ideas! ?

  3. Jenn says:

    Is it reasonable to expect my 19 month old boy to sit (with training) for 30 minutes at a library storytime or similar setting? If so, how would you do that training?

    I would love to see a similar list for girls!

    • Jess Connell says:

      30 minutes is a long time for that age to give focused attention. I think he could probably do it, yes, but I would *NOT* expect for it to be perfectly done, still-as-a-statue, etc. It would be up/down, reminding, sitting in lap, etc., finger to lips, helping them keep interest, possibly standing at the back, pointing out things and whispering in his ear to make connections for him (see the big blue bird on that page?), etc.

  4. Lauretta Wheaton says:

    Yep….. you are correct…. i have no girls…. even the cat is male…. we have a digging spot in the yard, ninja warrior course un the basement, 3 or 4 boxes of bandaids in the medicine bin, wrestling matches in the living room and well…. you know.? its a boy thing, best just to roll with it.?

  5. Ann says:

    I would add: Some boys are cautious. Learn to recognize that and do not make fun of them or allow siblings to do so. These personalities need to know what is coming off before they are comfortable with new activities. When they are ready, they will attempt them. That is not fearfulness and should not be mocked.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Any advice for getting through a trip to the grocery store? I have 3 boys 7 & under, and the youngest rides in the cart while the older two walk. I feel like I am constantly saying don’t touch that, come back here, stop messing with your brother, etc. If I have something to get that they can reach I have them help, but most of the time I’m just trying to get through it and pay attention to my list so I don’t forget anything. Some trips it is so difficult and I feel so defeated by the end! I offer warnings during the trip and discipline once we’re out of the store if necessary, but don’t feel I have many options while in the store.

    Love all the other tips, especially #24 doing weird things, and the digging one! Thankfully we have some bare spots under a tree that are great for digging, plus the sandbox.

  7. Erin says:

    Number 5…my oldest boy is 12 and this weekend his dad initiated him into the world of lawn mowing. I was hesitant – our yard is a half acre and we have a regular old push mower. But HE LOVED IT. He felt so grown up. Every time I stepped outside he asked me how it looked. He was proud of himself and wanted me and his dad to be proud of him too!

  8. Melissa says:

    When their ideas and stories never seem to end and uhave 2949595 things to do, listen. Truly listen….nudity will happen. U will say countless times put on your clothes! Why are u only in your underware!?? These are just 2 more off the top of my head. 3 boys almost 7, 5, almost 3, and baby #4 (gender unknown) due end aug

  9. Elizabeth says:

    YES on #9! When I found pants on sale for my 6 and almost 5 year old to wear on Easter, I told the boys they are NOT allowed to wear them until Easter because I want there to be at least one Sunday they went to church with hole free pants.

    Also, a deep freezer is a must…the amount of food they can put away is rather astonishing, considering they’re not that old. I know it’s only going to increase.

  10. Diana says:

    I love these!!! You truly know boyhood, because these are just so incredibly true. I have learned or am learning almost all of these. (We have four boys and one girl.)

    Oh, and you just reminded me that I need to go buy more bandaids!! :)


  11. Brittany says:

    Food is the way to their hearts! A special treat makes them feel so loved!

    These made me smile because they are so very true! Especially holes in the knees and digging! :)

  12. Courtney says:

    I would love to hear more on #19. What does that look like for your family, especially with homeschooling?

    • Jess Connell says:

      This semester, my 9th-grade (14yo) son went with my husband each day to his office, and worked in a separate room from him. I oversaw the initial booklist, and gave my husband a full report/understanding of where he was, academically, in each subject area, and helped him think through what needed to happen from there. Obviously, he’s our oldest, so this has been a bit of a “guinea pig” semester for him and for us, but it’s worked out well, and we are already seeing some fruit from him being given a measure of independence, while still being under my husband’s authority, and coming to me more for advice/counsel, rather than daily oversight.

      READING, HISTORY, BIOGRAPHIES- from our personal library and local library. He keeps a reading log and occasionally gives a verbal report to Doug or I.
      MATH- He does math on a computer program, and can’t advance unless he gets an 80% or higher on each module. He has made progress this year, and actually, on his annual testing, the scores shows that he gained some ground this past 12 months. Yay!
      WRITING, ECONOMICS, POLITICS- He has done a good portion of writing on his personal economics-focused blog, so then he prints out those articles and we review/edit together, talking through writing mechanics, styling, etc.
      LOGIC- he’s had a logic curriculum to work through for the year.

      On top of these things, he uses YouTube’s educational videos for lectures and learning.

      This next year I believe we will be selecting a number of “The Great Courses” for science lectures (since that is a weak area for me). It’s not a strong area of interest for him, or else we would be pursuing more in-depth classes, with labs, etc., but for now, a basic familiarity with, say, mitochondria, DNA strands, genus/species, force, mass, scientific laws, etc. will suffice for his level of interest in scientific things.

      His educational bent is currently more toward economics, global politics, history of wars, political theory, so we’re trying to make the most of opportunities in that area, and give him just basic touchpoints and a foundational/conversational understanding of areas where his interests are not as strong.

      Does that give a more full picture of how we’ve approached this & how it’s looked?

  13. Jenna says:

    I love these tips so much…I am from a family of 4 boys, 1 girl, and am raising my first son with baby 2 on the way. To add to the comments above, I would also love to hear your thoughts on raising young women. Thanks for your diligence with writing and faithful commitment to truth.

  1. April 8, 2017

    […] 25 Tips for Moms of Boys. I had three, and I can agree with most of these. […]

  2. June 5, 2017

    […] Here’s a fantastic resource about raising boys, from a Mum who is older and wiser and further along than me: http://jessconnell.com/25-tips-moms-boys/ […]

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